Jailed de facto Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim filed a lawsuit Friday to overturn his sodomy conviction and win his freedom after reports surfaced that the lead prosecutor had received millions from the prime minister to handle the case.
The lawsuit, filed with the Kuala Lumpur High Court registrar, names the Malaysian government as the defendant.
Anwar claims the appointment of Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, a lawyer in private practice, as the public prosecutor to conduct the appeal went against the attorney general’s usual practice. Anwar also claims the lawyer was not an independent prosecutor and did not discharge his duties fairly.
The founder of the opposition People’s Justice Party was charged with sodomizing a former aide, Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, in 2008. The High Court acquitted Anwar in 2012 but the Court of Appeal reversed that decision and sentenced him in 2014 to five years in prison.
While Anwar said he was not aware of an allegation by the Sarawak Report, a British-based whistleblower website, that Prime Minister Najib Razak had made payments to Muhammad Shafee, his lawyer touched on the report after filing the appeal.
“This lawsuit is filed today because there has been a new disclosure that the prosecutor had received payments of 9.5 million ringgit (U.S $2.22 million) and we are asking for an urgent trial date because Anwar should not remain in prison even for one more day,” lawyer N. Surendran said.
“As a Malaysian citizen, Anwar should get a fair trial including an independent prosecutor and not influenced by a third party through monetary inducement,” he added.
Muhammad Shafee had little to say to reporters as he walked to his car.
“I will issue a statement, but not today,” he said.
Najib did not comment on the allegation, but former Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan questioned its validity. Musa served from 2006 to 2010 and Najib became prime minister in 2009.
In 2015, the government said that Muhammad Shafee was paid 1,000 ringgit (U.S. $234) to handle the case.
Friday’s court action follows a lawsuit filed less than two months ago when Anwar claimed the government filed falsified evidence which led to his five-year sentence on his sodomy conviction. The April 17 lawsuit alleges his conviction was based on perjured testimony from his former aide, the prosecution’s main witness.
This is Anwar’s second sodomy conviction. After he was acquitted in 2004 of a charge filed in 1998, Anwar claimed he was framed by the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the party that leads Malaysia’s ruling bloc.
Malaysian government officials and UMNO leaders have denied framing Anwar.